Three Nick Nowak Mysteries (Boystown #1)

Boystown185Title: Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries #1
Author: Marshall Thornton
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Mystery
Length: Novel
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Rating: 4 stars out of 5


A former police officer turned private investigator, Nick Nowak is haunted by his abrupt departure from the department, as well as, the traumatic end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty. In these three stories set in Chicago during the early eighties, Nick locates a missing young man for a mysterious client, solves a case of arson at a popular nightspot, and goes undercover to prove a dramatic suicide was actually murder.

When he isn’t detecting, and sometimes when he is, Nick moves through a series of casual relationships. But his long suppressed romantic side surfaces when he meets Detective Bert Harker. Will he give love another chance? Or, will he continue to bury himself in the arms of strangers?

Boystown Mysteries Series


Private Eye Nick Nowack had resigned from the Chicago PD when it became known that he was gay as a result of the gay bashing of his previous boyfriend. He was ostracised because there was no tolerance for homosexuals on the Force and his family members who were also with the Chicago PD were the first to let him know that he was unwelcome – after all, this was the 80’s.

Nick set up his own private investigation business since investigating was all he knew. During the daytime he handled client cases involving background checks, security, or the occasional skip trace, and at night he trolled the gay bars looking for action. In order to make ends meet he worked part time as security at a local club, Paradise Isle, which also had the advantage of providing an available selection of pick-ups  after his shift ended.

This was a different time, 25+ years ago when disco was still king and the music played in the clubs reflected the high energy beat and sounds of the times.  The world building was wonderful and the author really did a great job of setting the stage for the character and the stories especially Nick’s apartment which was a dream of 80’s decorating. 😀

The first case involved a missing person that Nick was hired to find.  However his client gave him a fake name and address but sent a $500 deposit, double his usual retainer, which made it clear that he was very anxious to find the person. Nick was suspicious but couldn’t figure out his client’s angle so when he found Brian Peerson, the missing person, he was reluctant to give him up to his client after he had sex with him. 🙂 As he unravelled the mystery of his client and his purpose for finding Brian I thought that the author did a great job of  going through Nick’s thought process, up to the final takedown.

The second story – Little Boy Burned  – was an  arson investigation. Someone had torched Paradise Isle and a bartender at the club was injured during the fire.  The obvious suspect was Davey, the owner of the club and Nick took on the job although he had never handled a similar case before, because Davey asked him to investigate. The case was quite straightforward but the answers led to more questions. There were many suspects, from the head of a group that wanted the bar out of their neighbourhood, to a crime boss who may not have been getting his cut of the club’s receipts, and the boyfriend (s) of the burn victim. In between solving the crime Nick finds time to have lots of sex and sometimes with more than one person at the same time.

The last story – Little Boy Fallen – is about a murder. The Police believe that it was suicide but the victim’s mother doesn’t, neither do his friends. Nick feels that it is his job to prove to the victim’s mother that her son had, in fact, committed suicide since she didn’t trust the Police investigation. However, once he starts investigating, the picture doesn’t seem as clear and points to another conclusion.

In this book, Nick Nowak who is also the narrator, is reminiscent of the Raymond Chandler school of detectives such as Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe who lived in a much earlier time – the 40’s. The only difference is Nick is gay. Nothing was high tech –  IBM Selectric typewriters were in vogue (no netbooks or laptops); he used pads and pens to make notes; there were no cell phones – just regular land line phones, pay phones or CB phones; and there’s no Internet to track down the bad guys. When he wanted to follow someone Nick used shoe leather or the subway.  Another mode of transportation was big-ass cars like his 1974 Plymouth Duster that burned massive amounts of gas. These were also the days when the lubricant of choice was Vaseline (or maybe butter).

The characters were all well drawn, from Miss Minerva Jones the cross dressing DJ from Paradise Isle to Nick’s  f**kbuddy Ross. Nick had sex with just about everyone in the book because he can’t resist a hot man, even a suspect. He does end up with someone so there’s a HFN but if I tell you who his love interest is I will have to kill you. 🙂

I enjoyed Boystown and all the characters in the stories and I think you will too.  However, this is not a romance but several mysteries. Recommended.



  • This sounds really good, Wave. I like books set in the not too distant past. I read a mystery book recently which had been written in the 80’s and found it odd that when the hero was stranded, he had to walk for miles to get to a pay phone. How easy it is to forget how things used to be :).

    • Jenre
      You probably weren’t even born in the 80’s, but it’s a lesson in how far we’ve come when you read books set in the near past like this one and realize that was not even 30 years ago.


      These 3 stories are certainly different as well as the method of detecting. If you’re not looking for a full blown romance, then you’ll enjoy the stories which are about 50 pages each.

      • Ha! You’re too kind. I was a child of the 80’s so did experience life before the mobile phone and the internet :).
        I don’t mind reading books which aren’t full blown romance, especially if I know before hand. It’s the books which are marketed as m/m romance when they are obviously not which annoy me.

  • Tam
    This book was such a welcome change from all the angst of unrequited love that I have been reading lately. The cases were straightforward and the characters were a lot of fun. Nothing was high tech and I suspect Marshall Thornton might have grown up during the 80’s because the worldbuilding was so realistic. If not, he has a great imagination. I think you’ll enjoy Boystown.

  • Oh, I’m sure I’m going to like this one. Mystery + hot guy who knows what he wants and how many times. Ehem. The review reminds me of early Donald Strachey books, before he found Tim. ^^ Goes to my TBR list. Thanks for recommendation.

    • LadyM
      I too kept forgetting that life was not always like this with cell phones, iPods, the Internet, netbooks and everything else we take for granted. I really like this book, but then I love books by Raymond Chandler which were written about a time 40 years prior to when Boystown was set.

  • Sounds kind of fun. I like mysteries. I can’t even believe how far we’ve come with stuff like computers, cell phones, all the things we take for granted. LOL I wonder in 25 years from now if we’ll look back and think how primitive we are now. Might be worth checking out as a mystery rather than a romance. Nice review.


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